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What We Are Reading

December 30, 2010

Below is a list of books that we have read in recent weeks. The comments are not a review of the books, instead sort of an endorsement of ideas and investigations that can provide solid analysis and even inspiration in the struggle for change. All these books are available at The Bloom Collective, so check them out and stimulate your mind.

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, by Jordan Flaherty – Floodlines is a firsthand account of community, culture, and resistance in New Orleans. The book weaves together the stories of gay rappers, Mardi Gras Indians, Arab and Latino immigrants, public housing residents, and grassroots activists in the years before and after Katrina. From post-Katrina evacuee camps to torture testimony at Angola Prison to organizing with the family members of the Jena Six, Floodlines tells the stories behind the headlines from an unforgettable time and place in history. An excellent book that raises up racial justice work and community organizing.

What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth, by Wendell Berry – Over the years, Wendell Berry has sought to understand and confront the financial structure of modern society and the impact of developing late capitalism on American culture. There is perhaps no more demanding or important critique available to contemporary citizens than Berry’s writings — just as there is no vocabulary more given to obfuscation than that of economics as practiced by professionals and academics. Berry has called upon us to return to the basics. He has traced how the clarity of our economic approach has eroded over time, as the financial asylum was overtaken by the inmates, and citizens were turned from consumers — entertained and distracted — to victims, threatened by a future of despair and disillusion. This collection of essays is an important contribution to creating a new economic model.

Agriculture and Food in Crisis: Conflict, Resistance and Renewal, by Fred Magdoff ad Brian Tokar – The failures of “free-market” capitalism are perhaps nowhere more evident than in the production and distribution of food. Although modern human societies have attained unprecedented levels of wealth, a significant amount of the world’s population continues to suffer from hunger or food insecurity on a daily basis. In Agriculture and Food in Crisis, Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar have assembled an exceptional collection of scholars from around the world to explore this frightening long-term trend in food production. While approaching the issue from many angles, the contributors to this volume share a focus on investigating how agricultural production is shaped by a system that is oriented around the creation of profit above all else, with food as nothing but an afterthought.

The Empire Strikes Out: How Baseball Sold US Foreign Policy and Promoted the American Way Abroad, by Robert Elias – From the Civil War to George W. Bush and the Iraq War, we see baseball’s role in developing the American empire, first at home and then beyond our shores. And from Albert Spalding and baseball’s first World Tour to Bud Selig and the World Baseball Classic, we witness the globalization of America’s national pastime and baseball’s role in spreading the American dream. Besides describing baseball’s frequent and often surprising connections to America’s presence around the world, Elias assesses the effects of this relationship both on our foreign policies and on the sport itself and asks whether baseball can play a positive role or rather only reinforce America’s dominance around the globe. Like Franklin Foer in How Soccer Explains the World, Elias is driven by compelling stories, unusual events, and unique individuals. His seamless integration of original research and compelling analysis makes this a baseball book that’s about more than just sports.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Idea for Dialog permalink
    December 30, 2010 8:12 pm

    This is post (while somewhat interesting) is burying a GREAT discussion taking place on gentrification in one of your previous posts. Could you all PLEASE install a recent comment widget on the side of your blog?

    Instructions are here:

  2. December 30, 2010 8:17 pm

    Ted, I admit that I am somewhat IT challenged, which is why the site is limited. I did not set up the blog myself, but I will look at the instructions and see if I can figure it out or ask others who are better that this to add what you suggested.

    Having said that, we are not doing anything to bury discussion and we post 2 to 3 pieces daily as has been our practice for years. We don’t get paid to do this work, rather it is a passion of ours, so please be patience with the technical end of things.

  3. December 30, 2010 8:21 pm

    Yeah we get it already. You are anti-capitalist and free market. Leave it to liberals to over analyze the impact of baseball. I bet you believe in giving all kids A’s and no touch football. Don’t blame capitalism blame the countries and societies still stuck in the stone age for not progressing. Wait that’s not a politically correct thing to say. I’m just an ignorant American sorry.

  4. December 30, 2010 8:29 pm

    Wow. As someone who has done solidarity work in Guatemala and El Salvador over the past 25 years I can tell you that the major obstacles to progress and human rights in those countries has been the small sector of wealthy families in those countries (which everyone there refers to as the Oligarchy) and US policy.

    The CIA initiated a coup in Guatemala in 1954 to get rid of a democratically elected government and install a military dictatorship which resulted in brutal military and economic policies. All throughout those decades the US provided weapons, training, advisors and economic support for such a system that would not have otherwise survived.

    Robert Elias’ book is important if we are going to take seriously these historical dynamics. For instance, the fact that Spaulding and Rawlings, companies that make baseballs contract to have them made in Haiti because of the Free Trade zone agreements and the sweatshop wages they pay workers. This was all done during the Duvailer regime in Haiti, another dictator that numerous US administrations had closes relations with.

  5. December 31, 2010 1:34 am

    There is an excellent interview with “Floodlines” author Jordan Flaherty over at Worth a read–and, from what I hear, “Floodlines” is worth a read, as well.

  6. Jeff Smith permalink*
    December 31, 2010 1:37 am

    thanks for the link Micah

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